Black woman political pioneer Henrietta Turnquest died at the age of 73 on March 29, 2021 following complications with Alzheimer’s disease.
The trailblazer was among one of the first Black women attorneys in the state of Georgia and one of the first few women of color elected to the Georgia General Assembly.
“My mother was in the vanguard,” son Malcolm Turnquest told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Spelman College graduate made history in Georgia politics and in service as the founder of the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers. Though she was a native of New York, Turnquest served constituents in the Peach State for more than 10 years.
“She always stood her ground,” State Senator Nan Orrock, who served with Turnquest in the state House, told the Journal-Constitution. “She was very clear about standing up for African Americans at the table and addressing the myriad examples of discrimination that abounded.”
Former colleagues say it was Turnquest’s advocacy that helped get the legislation through to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag.
Turnquest established internships with state lawmakers for students of her alma mater and Morehouse College. She also helped craft the legislation that expanded funding for public transportation in the metro-Atlanta area.
Her young brother, Carl Turnquest, remembers his sister as determined and a go-getter. “She just had determination and stick-to-it-iveness,” he told the newspaper. “What really sticks out in my mind was the leadership she exhibited when we were younger,” he added later. “And she was the proxy who took care of us kids when our parents weren’t around.”
A private memorial service for Turnquest was held late last month.
Photo: Atlanta Journal-Constitution